Book Review

The End of Healing

A Novel by Jim Bailey

reviewed by Scott Morris

Readers looking to understand the inner workings of the American health care system might not reach first for fiction, but Jim Bailey’s long career in health care and his affinity for themes in literature, medical history, and science position him to produce such a book.

His fictional rendering of medical training, administration, and practice put faces on real issues in health care—and the ways that too often health care turns into the opposite of healing. The novel’s story winds around whether procedures are justified or moral, machinations of hospital systems, erroneous assumptions about health care, end-of-life issues, the value of the individual, the strength of committed mentors, and systemic challenges in health care industries that can affect the quality of care patients receive.

Dr. Dante (Don) Newman’s mentor, Dr. Virgil Sampson, says early in the book, “Our fellows train to become agents for health system change … I’m looking for the doctor who wants to take on the status quo.”

The preeminent theme of the novel is that there is another way—for those brave enough to choose it. Through this story, Bailey argues that doing so will require rethinking the way the next generation of physicians is prepared for their role in healing, rather than being caught in cycles of harming. It also requires a society willing to rise up and confront institutionalized systems that serve goals other than health and healing and once again recover the humanity we share.

“The choice is yours,” Dr. Sampson says to Newman. “What are you going to do?” Sampson is a figure who consistently calls not merely for protest but for action. As Don Newman wrestles with his own answer to this essential question, his story challenges the rest of us to do the same. Will we settle for the status quo, or will we become active agents of change?

This book contains strong language.

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